On Friday 8th November 2013, Louis Vuitton will open its doors to the Townhouse, a new urban retail destination set within Selfridges, London’s historic department store. Built over three inter-connecting floors, Louis Vuitton invites clients to journey through a new retail concept and signature interior, into a dialogue between modernity and tradition, surprise and discovery.
Following a new architectural concept by the French-born, Japanese based designer, Gwenaël Nicolas, the Townhouse is an ultimate destination for retail theatre. Upon entering, visitors are captured by a surprising spiral structure that penetrates through the historical Selfridges building. This structure wraps itself around a circular elevator that connects the different Louis Vuitton universes and is a suggestion that the journey of the Townhouse is destined to continue, upwards. The short travel in the glass elevator then reveals a head turning surprise, as it begins to gently revolve, in tandem with the movement of the spiral. Every journey for Louis Vuitton, regardless of how short, is inspirational.
The first impression of the interiors is one of simplicity and modernity. Stepping closer, each surface begins to reveal a patina, a texture; the leather, the stone, the wood – each material has a small effect that deepens its existence and quality. Wrapped in a warm atmosphere of layered fabric walls, the Ground Floor showcases the new collection of leather goods, accessories and travel items. Crafted glass art pieces become a striking backdrop for the Louis Vuitton leather collections including city bags, luggage and hard-sided pieces as well as the Maison’s iconic special orders and Mon Monogram.
Located on the Ground Floor, Louis Vuitton introduces an innovative luxury experience; the Maison’s first Digital Atelier. A tactile digital table, clients will be taken on an interactive journey through the history and craftsmanship of the brand, engaging with content such as savoir faire stories of Louis Vuitton’s main collection and the varied personalisation services offered by the house. The Digital Atelier will also highlight the heritage of Louis Vuitton and its close links to London.
Composed of amber-brown patterns and evoking memories of sunset lights, the first floor presents for the first time the full Men’s ready-to-wear, shoes and accessories collections from the Maison’s celebrated Men’s Style Director, Kim Jones, and is contrasted by strong patinated glass elements. On the second floor, cocooned in layers of soft fabric, the elegant women’s ready-to-wear collections are delicately presented and pay tribute to the creativity of Julie de Libran, Women’s Ready-to-Wear Creative Director. The soft palette of light bronze highlighted by glass art presents an original collection of furniture which comes together to complete the refinement of the sophisticated women’s salon. De Libran’s Spring Summer 2014 Icônes collection, inspired by French designer and architect, Charlotte Perriand will exclusively pre-launch at the Townhouse. Clients are invited to complete their look in the Louis Vuitton shoe salon, which launched in July 2013 within Selfridges’ Shoe Galleries.
The Townhouse Designer
Gwenaël Nicolas, the French born, Japanese based designer to whom Louis Vuitton entrusted the layout and interior design of this exclusive address, describes himself as a “choreographer of space”. The recognizable characteristics of Nicolas’ designs are translucency, emotional coloring and attractive forms. His designs are about beauty and functionality and his signature is to always incorporate an element of discovery and unpredictability.
What was your vision for the Louis Vuitton Townhouse?
Louis Vuitton wanted to introduce within Selfridges a complete rediscovery of the brand, a new “signature” of the interior and to create an element that would symbolize the unique collaboration. The historical Selfridges building is penetrated by a helix design, wrapped around a circular elevator that elevates through the upper floors. The spiral connects the different space of Louis Vuitton in a constant dialogue between modernity and tradition, the patrimonial and the visionary. The tension created by this duality infuses a unique feeling of surprise and discovery.
From where did the idea for the revolving elevator originate?
The short travel in the elevator reveals a head turning surprise as the cabin gentle revolves inside the glass tube, following the movement of the spiral. Looking at the spiral structure, it was natural that the passenger would follow the twist. Also, it has a function as the exit on each floor is at a different location.
What did Louis Vuitton say when you presented the idea to them?
Everyone looked up to the ceiling with a smile.
What will this dynamic centrepiece do for Louis Vuitton and Selfridges?
The client, on entering the ground floor, is captured by the symbolic feature of the spiral, an element that also suggests the continuity of the Louis Vuitton store into the upper floors within Selfridges.
What does it bring to the shopping experience?
For a moment, you forget where you are and enjoy the ride.
Why is a sense of theatre and wonder so important to retail now?
Theatre is important to trigger curiosity in the viewer and to capture their attention. But if the surprise is just for the sake of it, it will only work for a second. In order to achieve real retail theatre it needs to be connected with the philosophy and essence of the brand in order for it to truly captivate you.
How do you want people to feel when they enter the Townhouse?
Louis Vuitton always challenges itself to redefine the balance between modernity and tradition. The deeper your roots, the more you can lean forward. The Townhouse visualises this leap forward, whilst keeping an eye on the tradition.
Can you tell us about the materials used to finish the space?
“Art on Art”. On the walls, the soft light created by layers of fabrics is contrasted by strong elements of patinated glass, were Louis Vuitton pieces are highlighted. The crafted glass art pieces become a striking background for product. The glass motif is a reminder of different abstract landscapes encountered during the voyages around the world, reflections on water, clouds in the sky.
What about the finishing touches?
The first impression of the space is simplicity and modernity but as you come closer, each surface reveals a patina, a texture; the leather, the stone, the wood. Each material has a small effect that deepens its existence and quality.
What does the Townhouse say about modern luxury?
Luxury is a dialogue between passionate people, between the craftsman with his craft and knowledge and the viewer with their curiosity and desire. The Townhouse is designed to unite these two journeys.
Art in the Townhouse
Barnaby Barford – Bounty, Cascade and Trace
For the Louis Vuitton Townhouse, British artist Barnaby Barford has created a series of intricate sculptures Bounty, Cascade and Trace. Each piece is painstakingly made from thousands of ceramic and porcelain flowers, leaves and butterflies. Inspired by Louis Vuitton’s distinguished style and beauty, the sculptures are embedded within mirrored walls, forcing the viewer to become part of the artwork.
Born in 1977, Barnaby Barford graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2002. He is an artist who works primarily with ceramics to create unique narrative pieces. With a dark sense of English humour and satire, Barford’s work explores and celebrates the human condition through both mass-market and antique found porcelain figurines.
Katsumi Hayakawa – Structural Reflection
Japanese artist, Katsumi Hayakawa has created three-dimensional wall works made from paper and glue, each individually hand-crafted. Structural Reflection reflects on “the uncertainty linked to the vision and ambiguity of recognition” and is made from 60,000 pieces of mirrors and paper cubes on which various lines and signs are printed. Mirrors are neatly placed facing each which creates a diffused reflection and places the viewer a state of visionary illusion. Viewers are unable to distinguish between whether they see a printed sign or a reflection in the mirror.
Born in Tochigi in 1980, Katsumi Hayakawa graduated from Nihon University College of Art. He holds a MFA from New York School of Visual Arts and in 2007 he received an award from the Nomura Foundation.
About Louis Vuitton in London
Founded in Paris in 1854, Louis Vuitton is synonymous with the Art of travel. Its iconic trunks, luggage and bags have accompanied journeys throughout time. In 1885, Louis Vuitton and his son Georges Vuitton brought Louis Vuitton to London located at 289 Oxford Street and marking the first internationalisation of the brand. A brilliant marketer, Georges Vuitton masterminded a store sign that was an adapted Tricolour and was the first to deploy whimsical window dressing. Present in the UK for over a century, Louis Vuitton now extends its expertise to ready-to-wear, shoes, accessories, watches and jewellery, available in its exclusive network of stores all over the world.
About Selfridges & Co.
Founded by American entrepreneur, Harry Gordon Selfridges, Selfridges London opened in 1909 at 400 Oxford Street. In 2003, Galen Weston bought Selfridges & Co and the family are closely involved with the development and growth of the company. Alannah Weston is Creative Director and the Selfridges is run by Managing Director, Anne Pitcher. On the first day of opening in 1909, Harry Gordon Selfridge placed an advertisement that contained phrase, “the pleasure of shopping” and this sense of theatre and entertainment remains
Images via Louis Vuitton